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How to remove a tick from your dog's ear

Dog getting ear checked

Your dog has a tick in his ear? Here is how to remove it

© Shutterstock

Ticks are gross. These horrible parasites can transmit diseases like Lymes Disease, and can be tricky to remove. They’re often found burrowed deep into difficult places to get to, like ears and between toes. It’s important to make sure these critters are removed safely, and entirely.

By Dr Holly Graham BVMedSci BVMBVS MRCVS

Updated on the 23/02/2021, 11:06

Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that latch onto dogs and other animals. They tend to be found in wooded or rural areas, but they can also live in your garden. Ticks climb onto passing animals from grass or foliage, they’re waiting for their next victim - so always check your pet for any nasty bugs after a walk!

They vary in size from 1mm-1cm, and can be hard to spot. Lots of owners think lumps are nipples are ticks, so check with your vet if you aren’t entirely certain what you’ve got is a tick!

Why do ticks go in dogs' ears?

Ticks attach anywhere they can. You can find a tick anywhere on your dog’s body, but they’re able to hide in the crevices of ears and are more difficult to spot and remove. Ears provide a protected location for them to feed before dropping off to lay their eggs.

How can you tell if your dog has a tick in his ear?

Some ticks are big enough to be spotted with the naked eye, and at first glance, they look like small dark pebbles lodged into your dog's skin. You can also feel them as small firm bumps - so it's well worth making regular tick checks, especially after walks in wooded or rural areas. Just run your hand across your dog's body, and check there aren’t any new lumps or bumps you’ve never noticed before. If you find something suspicious, have a closer look. Remember that lumps and nipples can look very similar, so don’t attempt to remove any unless you’re sure it’s a tick!

Ticks can make things pretty uncomfortable for your dog, especially if they get into their ears. Some ticks can make it all the way down to the ear canal, which is very unpleasant for a dog. You'll notice them scratching their ears much more than usual. They’ll also be shaking their heads as they try to dislodge the ticks. Once a tick has gorged itself on blood, it will drop off unassisted, but removal should be prompt to reduce the chance of disease transmission.

If you aren’t comfortable doing this yourself, contact your local vet.

Find out more about the symptoms that your dog has ticks

Removing ticks from your dog's ears

Tick removers are the safest way to remove a tick from your pet. These tools help to get under the tick’s head and mouth parts so nothing is left behind. Tweezers are an alternative, but care must be taken.

Remember: if you aren’t confident, speak to your vet. Parts left behind can cause irritation or infection.

Slide your tick remover or tweezers under the head of the tick. Ensure you’ve got all of the tick grasped - we don’t just want to remove the body. Ticks attach via their mouth parts, so if these aren’t included in your grab, you might just pull the tick apart. Tick removers often ask you to twist gently to remove the tick, check the instructions on your tools to make sure you’re using them effectively. Usually 2-3 turns is enough to detach the tick. If you’re using tweezers, apply pressure and gently but firmly pull the tick until it dislodges.

Ticks can be dropped into rubbing alcohol to kill them.

Check your dog’s ear once the tick is removed. Does the skin look healthy, or irritated? A small red bump where the tick has been is normal, and will disappear within a couple of days. But if your dog’s skin looks irritated or infected, contact your vet for advice. Monitor your dog’s behaviour and general health, any changes should be checked over by a professional.

Wash your hands after touching ticks, they can even spread things to humans!

This short video will show you how it's done:

Here are a few things you should NOT do when removing ticks from your dog's ears:

  • Don’t crush the ticks between fingers. Remember, ticks carry nasty diseases.
  • You may come across a few old wives tales about how to remove ticks but don't believe them! Petroleum jelly, a hot match, or nail polish can actually increase the chances of infection.
  • If the ticks are deep inside the ear canal then ask a vet to remove them instead. You don't want to be poking around in there with tweezers - you could cause some permanent damage.

Tick treatment and prevention

If you’re in an area where ticks are common, it’s sensible to invest in parasite control and tick prevention treatment. Most vets sell topical or oral medication to kill ticks if they bite, and there are lots of products available to help repel them. Make sure these products are recommended by your vet, these should be safe AND effective.

Making a few adjustments to your dog’s routine might reduce the chances of a hitchhiker on your pet. Tick season really kicks in between March and June, and then August to November. Try to stay away from wooded or rural areas, or be very vigilant and regularly check your pet after walks. Ticks should be removed as soon as possible, either by you or your vet! Most tick bites won’t result in a nasty disease, but simple steps should be taken to reduce the risks to you and your pet.